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President George Washington: Physical Description

About the President George Washington and his physical description including height and weight.

His Person: Washington's commanding appearance always inspired trust and admiration from those around him; as much as any other President, he had the elusive quality of charisma. When he was 27, a fellow member of the Virginia House of Burgesses described him as "straight as an Indian, measuring 6'2" in his stockings and weighing 175 1bs." This estimate may have been conservative: After Washington's death, his private secretary claimed that he measured the body and found it to be 6' 3 1/2" tall. Whatever his actual height, Washington was always considered a giant, and his body remained sinewy and strong, never exceeding 200 1bs. in weight. His massive frame supported enormous hands that required specially-made gloves and feet that called for size 13 boots. His cool, steady, blue-gray eyes, recalling in Emerson's phrase, "an ox gazing out of a pasture," furthered the impression of massive strength. An attack of smallpox when he was 18 had left his skin pockmarked, but it also left him immune to the disease that later ravaged his Continental Army. By age 57, Washington had lost nearly all his teeth, and he began a long and frustrating search for a pair of dentures that would fit him properly. The wooden and ivory false teeth that he finally selected were so unsatisfactory that he kept his lips tightly compressed during his later years, and his jaw developed that awkward, unnatural set that appears in most of his portraits. His dentures also left Washington with such deeply sunken cheeks that Gilbert Stuart, when painting his most famous likeness of the great man, stuffed his subject's cheeks with cotton; a close examination of this portrait reveals the artificial bulge. The natural color of Washington's hair was sandy brown, but he wore it powdered white and further obscured under a fashionable white wig. In 1760, Capt. George Mercer noted that in conversation Washington "looks you full in the face, is deliberate, deferential and engaging. His movements and gestures are graceful, his walk majestic, and he is a splendid horseman." But beneath this cool and polished exterior, Washington hid a furious temper. On one occasion as commander-in-chief, he became so exasperated at the quarreling of drunken soldiers in front of his headquarters, that he forgot the dignity of a general, rushed out, and knocked several of the brawlers cold with his own massive fists. When provoked, the "father of our country" could let loose a torrent of curses that would make even a modern President blush. Washington's private secretary once commented that the most dreaded experience in his life was hearing the general swear.

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